Social Media and the Courts

State Links

Arizona

Use of Social and Electronic Media by Judges and Judicial Employees, Advisory Opinion 14-01. Arizona Supreme Court Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. (May 5, 2014).

California

California Judges Association Formal Opinion No. 66 - Online Social Networking. (2011). This judicial ethics opinion addresses three questions: 1) May a judge be a member of an online social networking community? 2) May a judge include lawyers who may appear before the judge in the judge’s online social networking? and 3) May a judge include lawyers who have a case pending before the judge in the judge’s online social networking? The answer to questions 1) and 2) is a very qualified yes. The answer to question 3) is no.

Florida

Opinion Number: 2009-20. Florida Supreme Court, Ethics Advisory Committee (November 2009). This opinion addressed several questions concerning judicial use of social networking sites, including whether a judge may add lawyers who may appear before the judge as "friends" on a social networking site, and permit such lawyers to add the judge as their "friend." The Committee concluded that this is not permitted because, "The Committee believes that listing lawyers who may appear before the judge as “friends” on a judge's social networking page reasonably conveys to others the impression that these lawyer “friends” are in a special position to influence the judge."

Kentucky

Kentucky Judicial Ethics Opinion JE-119, Judges` Membership on Internet-Based Social Networking Sites. Ethics Committee of Kentucky Judiciary (Jan. 20, 2010). This ethics opinion addresses the question, “May a Kentucky Judge or Justice, consistent with the Code of Judicial Conduct, participate in an internet-based social networking site, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, or Twitter, and be “friends” with various persons who appear before the judge in court, such as attorneys, social workers, and/or law enforcement officials?" The Ethics Committee concluded that the current answer is a "qualified yes." See the full opinion for details.

Maryland

Published Opinion #2012-07. Judge Must Consider Limitations on Use of Social Networking Sites. Maryland Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion (June 12, 2012). This opinion addressed the question of what are the restrictions on the use of social networking by judges?" and whether the "mere fact of a social connection creates a conflict." The answer was "A judge must recognize that the use of social media networking sites may implicate several provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct and therefore, proceed cautiously."

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Committee on Judicial Ethics, Opinion No. 2011-6 (Dec. 28, 2011). This advisory opinion provides guidance on the parameters of Code-appropriate judicial use of Facebook for a judge who is making the transition from private practice to a judgeship with the Trial Court. The opinion concludes, "The Code does not prohibit judges from joining social networking sites, thus you may continue to be a member of Facebook, taking care to conform your activities with the Code. A judge's "friending" attorneys on social networking sites creates the impression that those attorneys are in a special position to influence the judge. Therefore, the Code does not permit you to "friend" any attorney who may appear before you."

New York

Advisory Opinion 08-176. Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics (Jan. 29, 2009). This opinion states, "Provided that the judge otherwise complies with the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, he/she may join and make use of an Internet-based social network. A judge choosing to do so should exercise an appropriate degree of discretion in how he/she uses the social network and should stay abreast of the features of any such service he/she uses as new developments may impact his/her duties under the Rules."

In Opinion 13-39, dated May 28, 2013, the Committee held "that the mere status of being a "Facebook friend," without more, is an insufficient basis to require recusal. Nor does the committee believe that a judge's impartiality may reasonably be questioned (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E][1]) or that there is an appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]) based solely on having previously "friended" certain individuals who are now involved in some manner in a pending action."

Ohio

Ohio Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2010-7. Supreme Court of Ohio, Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline (Dec. 3, 2010). This opinion answers the question, "May a judge be a “friend” on a social networking site with a lawyer who appears as counsel in a case before the judge?" Ohio's Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline finds that a judge may be a “friend” on a social networking site with a lawyer who appears as counsel in a case before the judge, but cautions, “As with any other action a judge takes, a judge’s participation on a social networking site must be done carefully in order to comply with the ethical rules in the Code of Judicial Conduct.”

Oklahoma

Judicial Ethics Opinion 2011-3. Oklahoma Judicial Ethics Advisory Panel (July 6, 2011). This opinion addresses the questions (1) May a Judge hold an internet social account, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin without violating the Code of Judicial Conduct? and (2) May a Judge who owns an internet based social media account add court staff, law enforcement officers, social workers, attorneys and others who may appear in his or her court as “friends” on the account?  The panel concluded to the first question, yes with restrictions.  However, the panel concluded that the answer to question 2 is no.

South Carolina

Opinion No. 17-2009, Re: Propriety of a magistrate judge being a member of a social networking site such as Facebook. South Carolina Advisory Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct (October 2009). This advisory opinion addresses the propriety of a magistrate judge being a member of Facebook. The Committee concluded that "Allowing a Magistrate to be a member of a social networking site allows the community to see how the judge communicates and gives the community a better understanding of the judge. Thus, a judge may be a member of a social networking site such as Facebook."

Washington

In Opinion 09-05 the Washington State Ethics Advisory Committee addressed the question of whether a judicial officer can have an internet blog where the judicial officer would post an essay and people would be able to comment and the judicial officer respond to those comments. The Opinion state that the Code of Judicial Conduct does not specifically prohibit a judge from blogging on the internet but "even though a judicial officer may post a blog on the internet, caution should be exercised as to how that blog is used and comments responded to in order to make sure that the judicial officer’s impartiality is not called into question or the action does not impair the judicial officer’s ability to decide impartiality issues that come before the judicial officer."